Sparkling brown eyes, dark hair, and a beautiful smile. Mia Aslamiya Roehoeputy is a new face at ProudBreast, and we are delighted to have her in our midst. After being diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2008, Mia received the breast cancer diagnosis in 2018. This had a significant impact on her life and her family. She wants to share her story to inspire families to talk about breast cancer and its consequences, even in communities where it is not commonly discussed.
Five days before my forty-fifth birthday, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It felt surreal because ten years earlier, I had already been treated for cervical cancer. I decided I wanted to be hospitalized in the Alexander Monro Clinic after watching the Dutch television program ‘Five days inside’. The clinic in Bilthoven specializes in the treatment of breast cancer.
By nature, I am an emotional person. But during that crucial moment, I was very rational. Even before receiving the definitive diagnosis, I wrote down my wishes regarding the treatment plan and surgery. To me it was important I would be in control during the roller coaster that would follow. When it was finished, I gave the list to my partner Freddy so he could advocate for my wishes throughout the process. Afterward, I felt liberated and was able to deal with my emotions. The good, the bad and the ugly ones.
Was the breast cancer diagnosis a result of the cervical cancer?
No, the oncologist said it was just “bad luck”. My mother passed away in 1997 due to breast cancer. Ten years later, I received the diagnosis myself, but there is no genetic link. During her treatment, I helped my mother in any way I could. Being the only child of a Catholic mother and Muslim father, it was not possible to talk about sensitive topics like cancer and all the feelings you must deal with. My father could never accept that his wife became ill. I accompanied my mother to the hospital and supported her throughout the process till the end. Unfortunately, mama passed away at the age of 41, and her death was never discussed. It was a taboo. I hoped my father would react differently when I was treated for breast cancer myself. But unfortunately, he reacted in a similar way and never supported or comforted me. That was very confronting, and it made me feel angry and sad.
Mama and I had a strong connection and shared everything. Growing up in an environment that tries to keep you down and limits your freedom is challenging. In my teenage years when going out with friends, I sometimes came home later than usual. My mom would be worried, but she would always back me up. The relationship with my father is complicated and can’t be repaired. This is the reason we don’t have taboos in our ‘patchwork’ family. It’s the lesson I’ve learned from my childhood. There are no topics we avoid discussing and we support our children to learn, grow and discover life themselves.
How did your own family deal with your process?
At the time, my children were in their teenage years. Especially my daughter found it incredibly difficult. I received the all-inclusive package: mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. There was a moment when I lost my hair due to the chemotherapy. The wig I wore outside was terribly itchy. At home, I didn’t wear anything, and my daughter found it difficult to see me without the wig. By talking to her, she realized that home is a haven where you can relax and be yourself. Where you don’t have to keep up appearances. She spoiled me with little, sweet notes on my pillow or a bouquet of flowers. Because she is not a talkative person by nature. What I find very special is that my twenty-year-old daughter is studying to become a nurse. She is in her final year and a while ago; she washed a young woman with a mastectomy in a nursing home. She can handle this very well and is a beautiful grown-up woman by now.
My son works as a police officer in the Eindhoven region. In the period shortly after I had surgery, he kept his emotions at bay. He wanted to be strong, but after a while he was able to talk about his feelings. My partner Freddy helped him with that. When a woman gets the diagnose breast cancer, everything revolves around the patient. Often, (step)children and partners are forgotten, even though they need love and affection too. They have feelings of grief and are sometimes dealing with anxiety. Any kind of support is welcome. What really surprised us is that we received help by people we least expected this. We developed sincere friendships with those who were there to support us during the darkest days of our lives. They have truly enriched our lives.
Our employer was also supportive in many ways. Freddy and I both work for the same family business, and the genuine attention during and after treatment was heartwarming. We received flowers, a surprise lunch, and a dinner, which made us feel like we were not alone in this journey. My HR manager listened carefully and helped me design the reintegration process. That was great! Unfortunately, one of my colleagues passed away recently by the consequences of breast cancer. She was a truly wonderful colleague. We would call each other daily. Just hearing her tone of voice was enough to know how she felt. I miss her every day. It’s very important to have a buddy who went through the process as well. Breast cancer survivors will recognize this. At the Alexander Monro Hospital, I met my buddy, Bea. She is invaluable to me, and we have so much in common.
If you could talk to your younger self, what would you tell her?
Enjoy life and seize all the opportunities presented to you. In my family I was not encouraged to pursue higher education. Nevertheless, I managed to secure an administrative position at a great company through hard work and personal effort. By nature, I tend to take care of others and put myself aside. During the process I have learned to take care of myself first and do things that make me feel happy. For example, I started training for the Ten Miles Run in Tilburg in 2019 and completed it. This achievement still makes me feel proud and generates a lot of positive energy and self-confidence.
I would also tell my younger self to disregard the judgment of others. Before my mastectomy, I regularly went to the sauna. But after surgery, it took me a long time to feel body confident. Last year, Freddy and I went to sauna. Entering the door, I thought: this is me; this is my body. I am content with it and the way others perceive or judge me is not important. I have accepted Mia 2.0 completely. We had a wonderful day, and together we visit the sauna regularly.
What message would you like to give to women going through this process?
Seek out fellow survivors and share your experiences. When it is impossible to talk about (breast) cancer and its consequences within your family or community, this can make you feel incredibly lonely and sad. Partners and (step)children can also feel isolated when they are not allowed to express their emotions and ask questions about cancer. Connecting with fellow survivors and people in the community who are willing to talk about it can be helpful. From the start of the process, I have been an ‘open book’ to everyone. As a result, Freddy, the children, and myself became very close. We know we can rely on each other in good times and in challenging times. My life motto is Carpe Diem, seize the day. Because life is worth enjoying. I experienced the photoshoot for the ProudBreast Magazine in the Ardennes as a warm embrace. It was great to be able to talk to like-minded women. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Qups and the new Qup Shirts! The photos for the magazine turned out beautifully. I am proud to be able to show Mia 2.0 to the outside world. I hope my story inspires and helps other women to share their journey.